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There is a great deal of misinformation about hypnosis.  The word itself carries some very unfortunate associations from its portrayal in popular media.  As a result, people often have unrealistic expectations of miraculous change. Others may fear hypnosis and think of it as something unnatural, magical, or dangerous. Still others dismiss it as hoax. In spite of this, hypnosis has been recognized since the 1970's by the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association.  There is a wealth of research demonstrating its application in many areas, especially in the treatment of habit disorders, skin diseases, anxiety and insomnia.

So What Is It?

Modern brain imaging techniques have now confirmed what we have long suspected: the hypnotic "trance" is an altered state of consciousness which is an entirely natural function of human neurophysiology.  Studies of the brain during hypnosis have shown recognizable changes in neural activity that correspond to the individual's subjective experience.  Hypnosis typically involves a narrowed focus of attention, and an alteration in perception, and frequently occurs in the context of deep relaxation (though hypnosis is more than a relaxation response). In the hands of a trained professional, clinical hypnosis can be a powerful tool for enhancing and accelerating many psychotherapeutic strategies.  Hypnosis can help build motivation for change, or alternatively, can uncover hidden obstacles to change (inner conflicts).  It can be particularly helpful in changing self-destructive habits that are normally resistant to change.  Hypnosis is not a substitute for therapy, but a facilitator of it.

What Are The Risks?

In the hands of a licensed health professional, the risks are minimal.  However, any potentially therapeutic procedure can have risks, especially when the person administering it has not had the proper training.  Because hypnosis has not always been taken seriously in the mainstream culture, it unfortunately remains largely unregulated.  In most states, anyone can legally practice hypnosis, with no qualifications in healh care.  Many practitioners have attended brief courses in hypnosis, but have had no training in handling medical or psychiatric emergencies.  Hypnosis is a powerful tool, and when unexpectedly disturbing material emerges, you will want a health professional who can help you handle it safely. Luckily, there are reputable certification organizations and responsible members of the field that participate in setting standards of practice that protect the public.  If you are considering clinical hypnosis as a strategy for healthy life change, find a practitioner licensed in the medical or mental health fields.  You can find out more about hypnosis, by visiting The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis website. I received my initial training in hypnotherapy from Antonio Madrid, Ph.D., in California.  Dr. Madrid is a respected researcher and clinician, and noted for his work with maternal-infant bonding. I continued my training through the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH), and the Oregon Society of Clinical Hypnosis (OSCH). For more information about the therapeutic use of hypnosis, check out the additional links to information about hypnosis at
Licensed Clinical Psychologist